If you've ever watched the hit TLC series "Say Yes to the Dress" then chances are you are more than familiar with Pnina Tornai. (Just look out for the petite brunette styling a bride wearing an extravagant wedding dress.)
The wedding dress designer, who counts herself as one of the top bridal go-tos alongside the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Vera Wang, is one of the show's most popular designers as a result of her cutting edge dresses that alternate between ultra-luxe and, well, ultra-luxe.
There's a reason why Pnina's dresses are expensive: if there ever was an haute couture bridal week (not to be confused with the yearly New York Bridal Week), Pnina would be the equivalent of Christian Dior thanks to her extravagant gowns that can usually be counted on to feature plenty of tulle, Swarovski crystals, beading, ruffles, massive ball gown skirts and sheer corsets. (A Pnina dress is not for the faint of heart.)
So when HuffPost Canada Style was invited to sit down with the New York-based designer in the middle of presenting her trunk show at Kleinfeld Hudson's Bay, we leapt at the chance for the opportunity to sit face-to-face with the "princess' designer." (We just coined that term right now.)
Luckily for us, Pnina didn't hold back and revealed what she thought about Angelina Jolie's wedding dress, who not to bring when you're wedding dress shopping and what she wore on her special day. Pnina Tornai's 2015 collection shows on Oct. 13, 2014, during New York International Bridal Week.
HuffPost Canada Style: How do you decide what kind of dresses to put in your collections?
When I create my collections I always have the thought that drives me, that I need to get a dress out there for every bride, so that every bride can have a dream dress. Which means for the bride who wants the narrow dress, the plain dress, the bride who wants the mermaid dress, the bride who loves the low back, the sheerness see-through, the ball gowns, the A-lines, the ruffles. I always try to think about every fantasy that a bride may have.
That sounds really difficult because obviously there are so many different kinds of women with different tastes.
At the end of every one of my runway shows, I always have the editors of all the big magazines all come up to me and say, "How do you manage to have a dress for every bride out there in one collection?" So I do have all shapes and I try to show all the possibilities that we have in beading, in embroidery, in laces, in fabrics, silk organza, silk chiffon. I really try to put everything into one.
You're one of the most asked-for designers on "Say Yes to the Dress." Why do brides love your dresses so much?
Because I think my dresses are stars. I think they have the star quality, the star dust on them. What brides really want on their wedding day is to shine themselves. The dress should really look like it's a one day in your lifetime, and you should look how you feel inside.
I have many brides who come from around the world and they desire a customized design for them—something that's completely different from anything else you can find.
What advice would you give a newly engaged bride who is going wedding dress shopping?
I would tell them to try to look at as many pictures as they can, and from there to limit it to what really makes the heart beat when they see it and what really seems to be the right shape. I would go with more than one option so that when it’s time to try them on you will be able to compare different cuts because sometimes you have a feeling that “Oh no, this pattern or this cut will never look good on me,” but it’s not true. You sometimes put it on your body and you go “Oh my God this is amazing on me."
Don't limit yourself to one thing only, to one style of dress. Of course you know which are the patterns that flatter you most so you should have this is a base, but try something that you wouldn't try normally.
What wedding dress did you wear when you got married?
I had a silk taffeta with a full A-line skirt and the top was corset with ruching and very little beading just at the edge of it. It had 52 flowers on the back, roses, everything made from the same fabric. It was a very classic dress but then I changed at the wedding into another beautiful very fitted silver lace dress that was very sexy. And at the after party I wore a beautiful pair of denim that I loved that was embroidered for me from bottom to top with Swarovski stones and a little top that was just for dancing. [Author's note: Pnina designed her wedding dress, of course.]
Why are we starting to see brides who wear more than one wedding dress at their wedding?
It’s their one big huge event in life and I think they want to be able to show who they are—that they are the princess, that they are the classic bride but that they are also the fun and the sexy bride and they want to show off that beautiful body that they have. You cannot show it wearing a ball gown.
What's it like seeing a woman wear one of your dresses? [Author's note: this interview was briefly interrupted so Pnina could help out a bride who was wearing one of her gowns. It was fabulous.]
It always makes my heart beat. I see my creation taking life, coming into life.
How would you describe a Pnina bride?
She’s a princess even when she’s not wearing a ball gown. My line is so elaborate, so carefully made, it’s all custom made, it’s all couture made. So it's the highest quality a bride could wish for on her wedding day, to wear something that has been made like our mothers' dresses were made, like our grandmothers' dresses were made.
What did you think of Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress?
I think she made her children an issue in her life, the most major issue in her life. She chose to be that kind of a mother and it was very original, very different. I don't know if I would really write on my dress, do drawings. I do sometimes bead the initials of a bride and her groom on the veil, but not on the dress. Again it’s more of a gimmick, I don't think it’s going to become a trend but it’s Angelina jolie, she can do whatever she wants.
Who are the three people you should bring when you go wedding dress shopping?
The three people who love you most, who know you best and who you trust. Why love you most? Because I have experience. I have 25 years of bridal dress designing behind me so I have experience and appointments where there's a friend who was maybe jealous and it's very frustrating. You can see that the bride is amazing in her dress and your friend is saying “I don't like it” and you’re there and you’re torn because you know she looks amazing in the dress.
Some brides bring their mother-in-law or step-mother when they know that they're doing it out of obligation but then there are situations where the bride doesn't get the experience that she deserves to get so you should really try to bring who loves you most.
When you're designing, do you have a type of woman in mind?
I don't have a type of woman in mind but I am a type of woman myself so I look at the world from my point of view and my point of view is being a woman, it's being feminine, not being afraid to show your curves, having those curves. A woman's power is in her being and we don't all have to be skinny or tall. I think each bride, especially on her wedding day, gets such a picture of beauty. I look at a woman from a very feminine point of view. Some men designers see women like only model skinny and I don't see it this way. I don't design for models, I design for the brides, for real brides. I even try to do my sample fitting on girls that are not models because I need to see, because the real purpose of these dresses are the brides.
What is your favourite part about dressing a bride?
If I dress her myself I think it’s when we put the veil on because the veil is like the aura of a dress. It's that very unique romantic sacred look.
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